As the reality hits home of playing under pandemic conditions and under biosecure environments, as India head into the all-important tour of Australia, the issue surrounding the Indian captain begins to have a telling effect.
The mind games have already begun in that the presence of Steve Smith is already being played up as a factor that could severely dent India’s ability to repeat their performance from the last tour, beating Australia in Australia. As a countermeasure, Virat Kohli’s prolific performances would be the perfect foil for India. However, with Kohli expected to leave on paternity leave, there are problems for team India that needs to be addressed.
There is little doubt that Kohli’s presence and performance have been a huge factor in how India have fared on their international assignments. Kohli’s captaincy might have sometimes called into scrutiny, but his position as a batting powerhouse in the Indian lineup is unmatched. However, there is something to be said for India being a dominant force by not relying on anyone player.
Virat Kohli’s availability was always going to be a question mark as if it was expected that he would apply for paternity leave. A common norm these days in international sports, usually players do return to the team after the birth of their respective child. However, in Kohli’s case, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spanner because of the quarantine norms which would have made tricky matters even if Kohli were to return.
Not having Kohli is a huge disadvantage even India had a line up worthy of boast. A regular mainstay in a leadership position is always an advantage when playing against a strong host team, particularly when that strong home team happens to be smarting from their last ignominy of handing India the rare Test series.
Surely none more than Kohli would have relished the opportunity to show that India’s success down under was not a fluke, but something that team India can build on. It is a hard gamble whether some players are willing to forgo missing the birth of their child, particularly their first one, in an age when such considerations are more common among the current generation even if some former cricketers have baulked at the idea of paternity leave, suggesting players should pick duty over family.
It is a hard one to drive home and it is fair enough that Kohli will be present, although the pressure to win the first Test and lay the agenda upfront has only exponentially increased on the visitors, which plays into the hands of the hosts.
Ironically the quarantine concern might have put the game right into the hands of the Australians who have not been happy about the change of schedule and also, the change of venue. Although there is still the pandemic cloud hanging over their heads as the numbers rise in the Southern Hemisphere country, India will undoubtedly be already planning for the Kohli fly out contingency, almost as soon as the World Test championship has resumed for the two teams.
The Men in Blue are training hard in the nets for the limited-overs series against Australia which is set to kick-off from November 27. Virat Kohli’s men recently entered the secure bio-bubble after completing their mandatory 14-day quarantine in the Kangaroo nation.
India will miss the services of swashbuckling opener Rohit Sharma, who is yet to recover from his hamstring injury. On the other hand, skipper Virat will also return home after playing the Day-Night Test in Adelaide to be with his wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child.
On the eve of the opening ODI, the BCCI shared a video on its official Twitter handle in which Virat can be seen practicing in the nets and preparing himself for the gruelling action against Aussies. In the clip, the 32-year-old was looking in good touch with the bat as he played some brilliant strokes.
The caption of the video reads, “Timing them to perfection! #TeamIndia skipper @imVkohli getting batting ready ahead of the first ODI against Australia.”
With 1910 runs, the Delhi-born star is India's third-highest run-scorer for India against Kangaroos so far.
Under the leadership of Virat Kohli, the Indian team clinched its maiden Test series on Australian soil in the 2018-19 season.
Former Indian skipper MS Dhoni was grooving into some impromptu dance moves with his wife, Sakshi Singh Dhoni, and daughter, Ziva, in a video posted by his Indian Premier League (IPL) team, Chennai Super Kings.
"Can we stop ourselves from smiling while watching this? Definitely Not," CSK captioned the video on Twitter. Dhoni and his family were seen surrounded by friends at a celebratory party as they all danced seamlessly around one another.
After announcing his retirement from all forms of international cricket earlier this year, Dhoni took part in the recently concluded IPL season. Despite CSK failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the tournament's history, Dhoni assured that he'll continue as the skipper of CSK next season.
Dhoni is one of the most successful captains in the cash-rich league, having led CSK to three IPL triumphs since the inaugural season in 2008. He is also the 8th all-time top-scorer of IPL, having scored 4632 runs from 204 matches at a strike rate of 136.75 with 22 half-centuries.
As India mourns the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, several Indian cricketers have paid the heartfelt tributes to all those families and security personnel who lost their lives in the dreadful carnage.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli took to his official Twitter handle and paid homage to the martyrs.
“Remembering the innocent lives we lost and our bravehearts who saved many during the 26/11 attacks. You will always be remembered and will forever be in our hearts,” the 32-year-old batsman tweeted.
Remembering the innocent lives we lost and our bravehearts who saved many during the 26/11 attacks. You will always be remembered and will forever be in our hearts. ����— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) November 26, 2020
Meanwhile, former India player and one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar also posted an emotional message on Twitter, saying the wounds may have healed, but the scars remain.
"The wounds may have healed, but the scars remain. Of the lives lost and the sacrifices made. These shall always be a reminder of the strength of the human spirit to overcome any act of adversity. Remembering all our martyrs on this day. #MumbaiTerrorAttack,” said Tendulkar.
The wounds may have healed, but the scars remain. Of the lives lost and the sacrifices made. These shall always be a reminder of the strength of human spirit to overcome any act of adversity.— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) November 26, 2020
Remembering all our martyrs on this day.#MumbaiTerrorAttack
Besides Sachin, another former India player, Gautam Gambhir, also remembered the day as he tweeted, “12 years ago our sovereignty was violated & around 200 innocent souls killed. Never forget 26/11.”
12 years ago our sovereignty was violated & around 200 innocent souls killed. Never forget 26/11 #MumbaiTerrorAttacks— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) November 26, 2020
The attacks, which took place on November 26, 2008, lasted for four days, leading to the death of 166 people and injuring over 300.
On the cricket front, Virat Kohli-led Indian side is currently gearing up to face Australia in the three-match ODI series, starting from November 27.
India's two-month-long tour of Australia is set to commence on Friday with both teams locking horns in the first One-Day International at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). During the tour, fans will be allowed to fill the stadium for the first time, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but to a certain extent.
However, ahead of the first ODI, former Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Kiran More has urged the team management to rest marquee pacers Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami, alternately, during the white-ball leg of the tour, to manage their workload. Both players will feature across all three formats, which according to More can get a bit hectic.
"The only thing I am worried about is (Jasprit) Bumrah. He is going to play one-dayers, T20s, and Test matches. I think I will look at resting Bumrah, and also (Mohammed) Shami. Preserve more for Test series," More told TOI in an exclusive interview.
"We need to give an opportunity to the young pacers (Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar) so that they can get some experience before the next World Cup."
More also added he won't completely mind the idea of playing three spinners in the ODIs.
"In ODIs, it depends on what sort of batting line-up Australia plays. I won't mind going even with three spinners at some of the grounds...because we have Jadeja who can bat also and bowl those ten overs," he added.
On being asked about which Indian team jersey he would prefer, the 1992 World Cup or the revamped version which will be done by the team, also loaded with sponsors, during the ODI and T20I fixtures, More replied: "We need sponsors. Without that, any sport won't go forward," he replied.
Even as the India tour of Australia is set to get underway, the Australian spectators and even their own cricketers cannot shy away from continuing to address the tweaks that have been made to their domestic Twenty20 tournament.
The Big Bash League 2020 is set to undergo three changes according to Cricket Australia and not everyone back home in Australia is taking to the changes like to fish to water. It could be argued that the BBL, aiming to Australia’s successful version of the Indian Premier League, has gone the desperate way in a bid to turn around its viewership numbers.
And fans and cricketers think the rules only complicate and thereby, dilute the game.
The draw ability of the BBL still stems, not unlike Twenty20 tournaments around the world, on its ability to attract foreign cricketers who are household names. It has become a vehicle like others, for older cricketers, some retired, to join in the venture. However, the BBL has not quite had the success that the IPL has had, their numbers even dipping in the course of the past two seasons.
However, it seems the BBL’s attempt to recapture audiences is falling flat with their decision to bring in changes such as adding points to the team chasing for being over the run measure of the team batting first at the ten over the mark, allowing the 12th man (X factor) to substitute any player beyond the 10th over and making the number of powerplay over staggered as part of its power surge move has not won over fans, yet anyway.
It will not be until the game takes to the field until the rules are put to the popularity test based on whether these changes will have a sticky quality to them. However, there has been a lot of pushback already even from some of their own cricketers about how the BBL is missing the whole point about regaining lost spectators, particularly as the world recovers from a pandemic and cricket needs every impetus.
One of the reasons that has made the IPL as successful as it has been having not only to do with the fact that the rules have remained fairly unchanged since its inception but also, because of its ability to draw in a fair mix of international spectators as well with foreign cricketers thrown in with established Indian cricketers as well as young Indian rookies looking to make a name for themselves.
While the BBL had welcomed the initiative to add a third overseas player to the team and therefore, make the BBL more like the IPL, in terms of capturing international audiences, the consensus before the tournament itself seems to be that this is an unnecessary, inconvenient tweaking of the rules that might send the BBL further away from fans who might want to simply watch a quality match than being overburdened by the rules.
Has the BBL done the right thing, particularly as some Australian cricketers are pulling away citing bio bubble issues? Only time will tell.
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